July 1, 2003
Q: I am a management and finance major graduating this year. I have attended countless networking meetings in search of an ideal mentor, who, in my opinion, will tell me all the secrets and shortcuts to getting to the top; help me make calculated decisions about climbing to the top — or in my case, finding the right ladder to start climbing; inform me about vacant positions; and even introduce me to key individuals. How can I find a mentor who is willing to help me achieve my dreams of having a rewarding and successful career?
–Via the Internet
A: First of all, you’re searching for help at the wrong events. In this climate, professionals attending networking gatherings are either looking for leads or job connections, not the opportunity to mentor someone just starting out. Secondly, understand that there are no secrets and shortcuts to success. The right mentor, however, would point you in the right direction and best explain corporate culture and politics. That person could also speak on your behalf when management is considering promotions. But before you can choose a good mentor, you have to outline your career goals. As a new graduate, you may find that challenging. That’s where your professors, career counselors, and alumni contacts can help you — before you actually get a job. Once you secure a job, target an individual in upper management whom you feel has the respect of his or her peers and exemplifies a business model you’d like to follow. But remember, this individual must feel that you, through your work and demeanor, are worth the investment of his or her time.